Study Guide

Inception Music (Score)

Music (Score)

Hans Zimmer

If you don't know who Hans Zimmer is, you need to take a good long look in the mirror and think about your life decisions...or maybe just read more of the credits after your favorite movies.

Because Zimmer has composed a bunch of them.

We're talking about the guy behind The Lion King, Gladiator, the new Batman trilogy, and other Nolan films like Interstellar and, of course, Inception.

Zimmer is one of the few household names when it comes to Hollywood composers, and he's earned every bit of recognition with his amazing music.

So what makes his Inception score so iconic? Well, it's the brass of course.

It's the big booming notes of tubas and horns that shake the theater that everyone remembers so well, that similar sounding moments in cinema are called or compared to Inception. In an interview, Zimmer calls the score electronic in nature, but he has a full orchestra imitating (or synthesizing, as he cheekily puts it) his electronic music.

But why are these brass notes so memorable? It's not just their sound; it's their function in the film.

The movie is famously complex at a plot/action level, and the score is there to guide us from one level of dreaming to another. Every time we hear these notes, we know that the dreamers are moving up to another level of dreaming, or back down, with the giant crescendo of blaring horns and slow-motion shots as all of the dreams begin collapsing at the movie's close.

But there's something else worth noting about the score that an observant fan picked up on shortly after the movie's release. The song that plays in the characters' headphones to kick them out of their dreams is Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regretted Rien," ("No, I Regret Nothing") and the blasting notes in the scoring appear to be a slowed down version of the song (or as Zimmer explains here, an isolated and manipulated beat from the song).

In fact, Zimmer explains that the score is "subdivisions and multiplications of the tempo of the Édith Piaf track. So I could slip into half-time; I could slip into a third of a time. Anything could go anywhere." Just like the movie itself, he could "at any moment…drop into a different level of time."

Oh, and don't worry. We wouldn't leave you without a complete recording sessions soundtrack playlist that you can play when your mundane life needs a little Zimmer spice.

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